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Old 03-17-2013, 09:20 PM   #19
Dan Richards
Dojo: Latham Eclectic
Location: NY
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 452
Re: An open letter to the martial arts community about conduct in the dojo

Ashley Hemsath wrote: View Post
I feel 2 years to shodan seems to be an unrealistic goal in general, and having to come up with an explanation as to why they are unable to take every dedicated student to shodan in 2 years doesn't seem helpful in the terms of having instructors take a hard look at themselves and the environment they are creating in their dojos.
Ashley, that's based on your expectations. But what if those expectations were changed? What if teachers took a serious look and totally reexamined how they're training students? What if the methods used hamper the student's progress? I think it's totally helpful to have instructors take a hard look at themselves and the environment they're creating.

I know a dedicated student - with a job and a family - can train an average of three times per week for an hour and a half, plus their own "homework" on their own time at home, and reach shodan level in less than two years. I know because as a teacher, I've done it. Getting students to a good solid 3rd kyu in six months is a piece of cake.

Actually, if we're talking "ideal," that would be a teacher and students in a closed dojo, and they did nothing but eat and sleep aikido. Under those circumstances, with the right kind of instruction and conditions, you could have shodan level students in 90 days.

Aikido has been overdue for an overhaul. And whether some people want to see it or not - it's already underway. Even Yamada, a top shihan, is finally coming out and publicly speaking out about not only the lack of quality in aikido, but also organizational responsibility towards that. He went so far as to call the top brass at Aikikai "clerks." You have to understand, this is jaw-dropping stuff.

Here's a quote from George, where he's not only totally reexamining how people are taught aikido, but he's also making a drastic adjustment in terms of the time frame and expectations for levels people could reach. Interestingly, the time frames and grade levels he arrives at closely reflect hombu during aikido's formative years.

From Perhaps the tide is changing.
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
If I were to be left completely to my own devices, I would have the student do static technique, and basic connection exercises of the type one would do with Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei (or any of the internal power teachers) and spend 3 - 5 years getting the body / mind properly programmed. Than I'd start doing more technique in a dynamic fashion. I would not have the student do anything resembling what folks often refer to as "resistant" training until they had been training this way for 5 years or so. I would also teach the ukes to attack using the same principles used by the nage. Right now we have one person attempting to do very sophisticated technique against an attacker who is totally remedial.

I think at the end of 8 to 10 yrs of training properly, we could end up with someone who currently operates at a fairly high Dan rank. In other words, after 8 - 10 years of training we would have someone who functions at or better than what passes for 6th dan at this point.

I wouldn't do any "mixing it up", or sparring before five years or so. Before that the student will fall back into old body habits in order to "win".
If we zoom out a bit; a level of 5th dan is essentially the equivalent of a PhD. From an article in the NY Times, it states the average student takes 8.2 years to earn a PhD. And that's average. And that lines up with George's calculations.

Let's play a little more. 3rd dan is right about at a Master's Degree. So, 5-6 years would be about right. 2nd degree would be a Bachelors. I'd consider a shodan to be on the level of a college-entrance exam - maybe we could call it a high school diploma. You need that to get into college. That's essentially what a shodan is; you're in the "school." Before that you're a guest. So, attaining shodan in two years, another year for nidan, and then another two or three years for sandan.

Aikikai's grading system currently requires a total of 300 "days" - whatever a "day" means to them, in order to qualify for shodan. A student averaging 3 classes per week is knocking out 156 classes per year. Two years of training 3 times per week arrives at 312 days of training. So, even by Aikikai's standards, shodan is completely attainable in two years - even for an average student. And let's say a student wants to immerse themselves, and go every day. 300 days of training should get them to shodan in less than a year.

Back to the 3-times-per-week student. Shodan in 2 years, Nidan in 1.5 years, Sandan 2 years, Yondan 2.5 years. That's a total of 8 years to Yondan. We're not that far off. And why that's important is that after Godan, 5th dan, that's when the student really begins to examine and explore and develop their own expression of aikido.

These numbers all line up. My numbers. George's numbers. Aikikai's numbers. Academia's numbers. Old-school hombu's numbers. And that's just dealing with the time frame.

So, we absolutely need ask teachers who are taking 5+ years to train their dedicated students to shodan level to reexamine what they're doing. Because, either they're stalling, or don't have effective pedagogical methods, or their umbrella organization (pyramid-shaped) is bloated. And if we look, it's really a combination of all of those.

We've also got to take a serious look at the level of competence and understanding within those levels. I totally agree with George, that there's no reason really good solid 5th and 6th dans could not be brought up at around the ten-year mark. And the environments for them to do that need to be created.

Last edited by Dan Richards : 03-17-2013 at 09:24 PM.
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